From correspondents in Dili
April 17, 2007 04:00am
EAST Timor officials said yesterday they had found more discrepancies in last week's presidential election while stressing the poll's outcome will remain unchanged.
Some votes counted in the poll, the first since the impoverished nation gained its independence in 2002, would be re-checked amid concerns they were not filled in properly, they said.
“This afternoon, we will reopen 42 ballot boxes because the documents (inside) were incomplete,” National Election Commission spokesman Martinho Gusmao said.
Voter turnout was high for last Monday's election and East Timorese hope that concerns about the credibility of the poll will not plunge the tiny nation back into turmoil and bloodshed.
After a closely fought race, the ruling Fretilin party's Francisco Guterres and Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta will contest a run-off as neither gained more than 50 per cent of the vote.
Mr Gusmao said the votes concerned were lodged in seven districts, including the capital Dili, and were originally counted in Monday's poll.
He declined to specify the problem with the votes nor the number involved.
Mr Gusmao also said the election commission had lodged legal action seeking to re-examine votes placed in another 26 ballot boxes.
“The CNE (national election commission) is submitting a request to the court of appeal to be allowed to see again 26 ballot boxes because of an inconsistency in data,” he said, without saying what the inconsistency was.
The checks come after it emerged on Saturday that a district with 100,000 eligible voters had produced three times as many votes. The discrepancy was later put down to a technical error.
The opposition Democrat Party said it was preparing legal action in a bid to prompt the courts to instigate a probe into the way the poll was conducted.
“It is now public knowledge that the recently held presidential election in Timor Leste on April 9, 2007 is after all not free and fair, as most serious irregularities have been found and reported countrywide,” failed candidate and party chairman Fernando “Lasama” de Araujo said.
A number of candidates have also claimed that some voters were intimidated, stoking fears of instability in the troubled state ahead of the second round.
Foreign peacekeepers have been in East Timor for nearly a year to ensure stability after gang violence in May last year left 37 people dead and sent 150,000 more fleeing their homes.